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Any Major Movie Elvis (and a quiz)

September 28th, 2021 11 comments

What it says in the title… A mix of songs from Elvis Presley movies — one from each. Plus a quiz: guess the Elvis movie from the synopsis. Clue: all the movies referred to in the quiz were made after Elvis served his fatherland. The answers are in the comments section (if some of the comments seem old, it’s because I first posted the quiz in 2008). Not that I expect anybody but the greatest Elvis fan to know most of the answers; the fun resides in the questions. When Elvis went to Hollywood, he hoped to inherit James Dean’s mantle of rebellion. As these questions may suggest, he didn’t even inherit Bing Crosby’s mantle of casually whistling acquiescence.

1. Elvis is a singing heir to a pineapple plantation in Hawaii who becomes, as you do when the future holds a panama hat, a tour guide. He falls in love and sings 14 (count ’em) songs, including that ghastly tune ignorant people tend to call “Wise Man Say”.

2. Elvis is a singing swimming pool lifeguard who couldn’t cut it in the circus. He falls in love. With a bullfighter. Alas, it is not an edgy message movie fighting a culture of homophobia well ahead of its time. The bullfighter is — and the shrewd reader guessed it — a woman.

3. Elvis is a singing rodeo rider. Looking for gold, he falls in love and — don’t say you didn’t see that one coming — gets married to his lady love. Aaah!

4. Elvis is a singing racing driver working as a bus boy (which means, he clears tables, not speed through the streets in a doubledecker). He falls in love with a swimming instructor. And — spoiler alert — together they win a talent competition. Hurrah!

5. Elvis is a singing charter boat pilot in Hawaii who is torn between two girls. In the end (spoiler alert redux!) he goes — gulp — for the good girl.

6. Elvis is a singing bush pilot who takes care of a little Chinese kid. He then, yes, falls in love.

7. Elvis plays a non-singing (!) gunslinger come good. He fails to sing, but — phew — he does fall in love (else what movie would there be?). With a dance hall queen, as you do.

8. Elvis is a singing rodeo rider (again), but with an ethnic twist: he is of Native-American descent. This time, Elvis doesn’t so much fall in love but play the field, going for a mother and daughter combo. Off-screen Elvis preferred the teenage daughters; will he go for the mom on-screen?

9. Elvis is, but of course, a singing racing driver who, plausibly enough, falls in love with a singing government agent in go-go boots. It’s a story all of us have to tell.

10. Elvis is a singing boxer who is supposed to take a fall. But he does fall. In love. With the love interest from movie (1).

11. Elvis is a navy frogman. Oh, but he is. And the novel twist is, at night he sings in a nightclub. Oh, but he does. The unbelievable plot device here: Elvis fails to fall in love but goes treasure hunting instead. Will he find the treasure?

12. Elvis is a singing helicopter pilot. And guess where. No, really, please do take a wild stab in the dark. Why, he’s a singing helicopter pilot in Hawaii. But this movie is not like all the others in which Elvis is a singing action man who falls in love with a pretty girl while being pursued by the town harlot. Here he doesn’t fall in love with one or two women, but romances three, count ’em, of them.

13. Elvis is a singing racing car driver. Incredibly, the thing isn’t called Deja Fuckin’ Vu. Elvis again has three women to choose from, as he did in movie (12) which preceded this one (the 1960s morals had loosened, evidently). And they have some pretty ordinary jobs: drummer, self-help author, heiress…

14. Elvis is the singing heir to a rich Texas oilman who roughs it a bit as a waterski instructor (doing it fully clothed!). Among his clients is a woman who is looking for a rich husband. Oh, the hilarious complications that arise when Elvis falls in love. How will Elvis get out of this one?

15. Elvis is an occasionally singing photographer of stylish advertisements and of nudie pics (nobody showed the Colonel that script, I bet) who experiences psychedelic trips involving people in dog costumes (actually, was Tom Parker at all awake?). Yup, there is a love interest, seeing as you ask.

16. Elvis is a singing US soldier who falls in love with a dancer and sings a German folk song to a puppet.

17. Elvis is a ghetto doctor who doesn’t sing an awful lot. But he falls in love. With a nun. Oh, naughty Elvis. But how could he know of her profession when she is swanning about in civvies. No wimple warning. There isn’t even a happy ending: we never learn whether the nun, played by a TV legend, goes with Big El or with Big Al. No wonder this was the last Elvis movie (a couple of documentaries apart).

18. Elvis is a singing insurance salesman who moonlights as a lion tamer and falls in love with the circus clown’s daughter.

Answers in comments (and in the included illustrated PDF documents).

The movies were mostly terrible (and yet strangely alluring in a camp sort of way), and not infrequently so was the music. Still, there were some stomping numbers, few more so than Bossa Nova Baby (watch great the excerpt from Fun In Acapulco here) with its sample-worthy keyboard line. Written by the legendary Leiber & Stoller, who just a decade earlier had written Hound Dog and other rock & roll classics, it was first recorded in 1962 by Tippie & the Clovers, whose version the song’s composers preferred over Elvis”. Why the bossa nova sounds more like mambo as seen through blue eyes and nothing like a bossa nova is anybody’s guess.

Another Leiber & Stoller composition, one that hints at Elvis’ affection for gospel, is I Want To Be Free, from Jailhouse Rock. It has been an Elvis favourite of mine since I first heard it on 4-disc set of our boy”s rock & roll recordings which I bought when I was 12. The version featured here is the one from the film, not that from the soundtrack (which, it must be said, is superior).

Elvis might have gone soft on us after returning from the army, but on his version of Ray Charles’ What’d I Say, he rocks out. From 1964’s Viva Las Vegas, it was the b-side of the excellent title track. And on G.I. Blues Evis even revisits Blue Suede Shoes. And here’s the thing: the cover of the first cover is note-for-note faithful, the arrangement is the same, but it lacks the ejaculatory power of the 1956 version. The army demonstrably had emasculated Elvis.

From 1962’s Girls Girls Girls, Return To Sender sounds like it might have featured in a pre-army movie. In fact, it sounds like a good companion piece to King Creole. It was co-written by Otis Blackwell who had previously written All Shook Up, Don’t Be Cruel, Fever (all recorded by Elvis) as well as Jerry Lee Lewis’ Great Balls Of Fire.

For a perfect fusion of Cool Rock & Roll Elvis and Cheesy Movie Elvis, one may turn to What A Wonderful Life from 1962’s Follow That Dream, in which Elvis plays the singing son of a vagabond heading down Florida way et cetera.

There was a period when the crapness of Elvis’ music coincided with the shittiness of his movies to create a sewerage of artlessness. I would locate that point at 1965/66. Some argue that Harum Scarum (1965) was the nadir, and it is a perfectly defensible position; I propose that this was just a stop before the all-time low: Spinout in 1965. There are no redeeming songs at all from that wretched movie. But rules are rules and I had to include one from each film. So you have the pleasure to sample the misogynistic Smorgasbord wherein our hero narrates his philandering ways by way of comparing his conquests to Scandinavian fingerfood. It’s so bad, it really is bad.

Things improved shortly, though not without further humiliations. You Gotta Stop from the following film, Easy Come, Easy Go is a few steps up from his nordic epicurean adventure, and then we get Long Legged Girl (With the Short Dress On) from Double Trouble (you remember Double Trouble, don’t you?), which is a fine performance, poor lyrics notwithstanding. Not that it saved poor Elvis’ dignity. In the same movie he was made to sing Old McDonald Had A Farm. Apparently he stormed out of the studio upon being told that the King of Rock & Roll was required to sing that. But sing that he did, on record and in the movie, for contracts are harsh mistresses. It is a pathetic spectacle.

But improve the things did. In 1967’s Clambake — another cinematic triumph —  Elvis sang Jerry Reed’s Guitar Man, getting deep into his country roots. On Stay Away, Joe (everybody remembers that fiesta of cinematic ingenuity) he reconnects with the blues, in a manner, with All I Need Is The Rain; and in 1968’s Live A Little, Love A Little, he hits on a career highlight with A Little Less Conversation, a song that would returned him to the charts almost 40 years later.

As always, CD-R length, home ducktailed covers, illustrated PDF for easy reading. PW in comments.

1. We’re Gonna Move (Love Me Tender, 1956)
2. Got A Lot O’ Livin’ To Do (Loving You, 1957)
3. I Want To Be Free (Movie version) (Jailhouse Rock, 1957)
4. Hard Headed Woman (King Creole, 1958)
5. Blue Suede Shoes (G.I. Blues, 1960)
6. Flaming Star (Flaming Star, 1960)
7. I Slipped, I Stumbled, I Fell (Wild In The Country, 1961)
8. No More (Blue Hawaii, 1961)
9. What A Wonderful Life (Follow That Dream, 1962)
10. I Got Lucky (Kid Gallahad, 1962)
11. Return To Sender (Girls, Girls, Girls, 1962)
12. They Remind Me Too Much Of You (It Happened At The World Fair, 1963)
13. Bossa Nova Baby (Fun In Acapulca, 1963)
14. Kissin’ Cousins (Kissin’ Cousins, 1964)
15. What’d I Say (Viva Las Vegas, 1964)
16. Wheels On My Heels (Roustabout, 1964)
17. The Meanest Girl In Town (Girl Happy, 1965)
18. Put The Blame On Me (Tickle Me, 1965)
19. So Close, Yet So Far (From Paradise) (Harum Scarum, 1965)
20. A Dog’s Life (Frankie And Johnny, 1966)
21. Hard Luck (Paradise, Hawaii Style, 1966)
22. Smorgasbord (Spinout, 1966)
23. You Gotta Stop (Easy Come, Easy Go, 1967)
24. Long Legged Girl (With The Short Dress On) (Double Trouble, 1967)
25. Guitar Man (Clambake, 1967)
26. All I Needed Was The Rain (Stay Away, Joe, 1968)
27. Let Yourself Go (Speedway, 1968)
28. A Little Less Conversation (Live A Little, Love A Little, 1968)
29. Charro! (Charro!, 1969)
30. Clean Up Your Own Backyard (The Trouble With Girls, 1969)
31. Have A Happy (Change Of Habits, 1969)

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Any Major Beatles In French Vol. 1

September 21st, 2021 13 comments

 

The Beatles, to state the obvious, made a big impact throughout Western culture. And in places like France and Spain, they helped give a name to a subculture of 1960s followers of pop culture: Yé-yé. The name derived from the English “Yeah Yeah”, such as in the hit She Loves You.  Building on the already existing rock & roll scene, spearheaded by Johnny Hallyday, yé-yé initially drew from the British “Beat” scene, but expanded to incorporate different genres, from bubblegum pop to baroque pop.

The leading exponents of yé-yé included the likes of Françoise Hardy, Sylvie Vartan (who married Johnny Hallyday in 1965), Claude François and France Gall, with Serge Gainsbourg one of the brains behind the scenes. Hardy actually was the first to sing the words “Yeah yeah yeah yeah” on a French recording, on La fille avec toi in 1962, giving birth to the term yé-yé. The yeahs in She Loves You in 1963 cemented it.

Unlike many other European countries, France had a thriving scene of songs in their own language. This meant that many English-language songs would be recorded in French. As the two collections of The Beatles in French show, that didn’t necessarily extend to only the big hits but also to lesser-known album tracks, such as There’s A Place, It Won’t Be Long, I’m A Loser, The Night Before, You Won’t See Me or Your Mother Should Know.

For the yé-yé period, which lasted till roughly 1967, there was an abundance of Beatles covers. After that, they became less frequent. This first mix covers songs which The Beatles issued between 1962 and 1965, and most of the French covers come from the same timespan.

The majority of the acts here are from France, or, like Petula Clark, recorded in French for the French market. But a few performers represent Québec, which had a thriving beat scene itself. The Canadian acts here are Les Bel Canto, Pierre Lalonde, Les Hou-Lops, Les Baronets, Christian & Getro, Les Monarques, and  Jacques Salvail.

Also not French but a star in France was Nancy Holloway, a US jazz singer who in the late 1950s performed at the Moulin Rouge before opening her own nightclub in Paris. But in the 1960s, already in her early thirties, Holloway had a line of hits with French covers of English-language pop hits, such as Don’t Make Me Over, My Guy, Hit The Road Jack, Sealed With A Kiss, and The Beatles’ She Loves You, which features on this mix. She died in 2019 at 86.

Holloway is not the only black act here. Les Surfs, a group of siblings, were stars in Madagascar when in 1963 they tried their luck in France — and after a TV performance became stars, topping the charts with a French cover of Be My Baby. They also had a string of hits in Spain and Italy before breaking up in 1971.

Two other acts came from afar. Tiny Yong was born in 1944 in present-day Cambodia of Vietnamese ancestry (her proper name is Thiên Hương). After her family moved to Paris in 1958, Yong was a teenage actress on the stage and recorded as a singer of chanson and cabaret. She hit her stride, however, as a yé-yé singer, having a string of hits before quitting the recording studios in 1966 and show business altogether in 1970. She then started a new career as a restaurant owner.

You might think that a group named Les Chaussettes Noires might have black members, but the noir in the name refers to socks. The band helped pioneer rock & roll in France in the early 1960s, with future star Eddy Mitchell as their frontman. Mitchell left in 1962 to pursue his solo career, so by the time the black socks recorded I Wanna Be Your Man in 1964, he was gone. And soon after  recording that, Les Chaussettes Noires split. Eddy Mitchell also features on this mix, with his version of You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away.

Les Gam’s was an attempt at a French girl group. The quartet emanated from a popular youth choir called Les Djinns, which even made a couple of appearances of The Ed Sullivan Show. Les Gam’s — their name was an acronym of the members’ first names, plus a gratuitous apostrophe — mostly recorded French of covers of English-language songs, such as All My Loving, which attracted some attention, but by 1964 their time was already up.

In their time, Les Gam’s occasionally collaborated with Les Lionceaux (The Lion Cubs), who were founded in the early 1960s as a mostly instrumental band. They backed Johnny Hallyday, and enjoyed some popularity in the slipstream of The Beatles’ success. By 1965, they split.

Given the war France waged against Algerian independence from 1954-62, the name of the Algerian group here seems, well, interesting: Les Missiles. I haven’t been able to find much information about the group, but they were the sons of colonialism rather than local. The group was active from 1963-68. Their best-known song, Sacré Dollar, is a cover of Hoyt Axton’s Greenback Dollar, but the French lyrics are far more militantly anti-capitalist than those of the original. They feature here with their version of I’m A Loser.

As always, the mix fits on a standard CD-R, includes fait-maison covers, and illustrated PDF of the above text. PW in comments.

1. Les Bel Canto – J’en suis fou (Love Me Do) (1965)
2. Petula Clark – Tu perds ton temps (Please, Please Me) (1963)
3. Claude François – Des bises de moi pour toi (From Me To You) (1963)
4. Lucky Blondo – J’ai un secret a te dire (Do You Want To Know A Secret?) (1965)
5. Les Surfs – Adieu chagrin (There’s A Place) (1964)
6. Johnny Hallyday – Quand je l’ai vue devant moi (I Saw Her Standing There) (1963)
7. Nancy Holloway – Elle t’aime (She Loves You) (1964)
8. Pierre Lalonde – Oh! Donne moi ta main (I Want To Hold Your Hand) (1964)
9. Les Gam’s – Toi l’ami (All My Loving) (1964)
10. Chaussettes Noires – Je Te Veux Toute A Moi (I Wanna Be Your Man) (1964)
11. Martine – Il Faut Revenir (This Boy) (1964)
12. Les Lionceaux – Le temps est long (It Won’t Be Long) (1964)
13. Thierry Vincent – Je n’peux l’acheter (Can’t Buy Me Love) (1964)
14. Frank Alamo – Je me bats pour gagner (A Hard Day’s Night) (1964)
15. Les Hou-Lops – Ces mots qu’on oublie un jour (Things We Said Today) (1965)
16. Richard Anthony – La Corde au Cou (I Should Have Known Better) (1964)
17. Michèle Torr – Et le l’aime (And I Love Her) (1965)
18. Les Baronets – Si je te donne mon cœur (If I Fell) (1964)
19. Christian & Getro – Je suis revenu (I’ll Be Back) (1969)
20. Les Monarques – Elle est si belle (No Reply) (1965)
21. Les Missiles – Il faut oser (I’m A Loser) (1965)
22. Tiny Yong – Huit Jours Par Semaine (Eight Days A Week) (1965)
23. Akim – Hum! Qu’elle est belle (I Feel Fine) (1965)
24. Olivier Despax – Ne me mets pas du bleu (Yes It Is) (1965)
25. Dick Rivers – Prends un ticket avec moi (Ticket To Ride) (1965)
26. Eddy Mitchell – Tu Ferais Mieux De L’oublier (You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away) (1965)
27. Les ‘Faux’ Frères – Une fille pour deux garçons (I Like Too Much) (1965)
28. Renée Martel – Un certain soir (The Night Before) (1970)
29. Jacques Salvail – Y’a pas d’mal (It’s Only Love) (1975)
30. Michèle Arnaud – Je croyais (Yesterday) (1966)

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Any Major Albums of the Year: 1971

September 9th, 2021 9 comments

 

 

Was 1971 the greatest music year? The riveting recent series on the impact of music in that year, titled 1971: The Year That Music Changed Everything, made a comprehensive case for 1971 being the greatest year in music, with the release of landmark albums that actually did change music. And the fact that I’ve “recovered” three of these — Tapestry, What’s Going On and Blue — suggests that I might agree with that.

1971 — fifty years ago, FFS! — certainly was a better year for albums than it was for singles, though even among those there were some great cuts. Some of them made it onto the Any Major Hits From 1971 mix.

So here’s my Top 20 of albums released in 1971. As I made my shortlist, I became rather intimidated as its length grew. What would I have to leave out. There are years where I’d struggle to compile a really good Top 20. With 1971, I could have made a Top 40 and feel entirely comfortable commending all of the albums. Just a few 1971 albums that failed to make the cut:

David Bowie – Hunky Dory; Sly & the Family Stone – There’s A Riot Going On; Baby Huey – The Baby Huey Story; Leonard Cohen – Songs Of Love And Hate; Curtis Mayfield – Curtis Live; Serge Gainsbourg – Histoire de Melody Nelson; Dolly Parton – Coat Of Many Colors; Carole King – Music; Little Feat – Little Feat; Don McLean – American Pie; Rod Stewart – Every Picture Tells A Story; Isaac Hayes – Shaft;  Shuggie Otis – Freedom Flight; Led Zepellin – IV; The Who – Who’s Next, and others…

Maybe on another day, this or that album from the list above might displace some of the ones I picked for my personal Top 20. But these 20 are the ones I’ve chosen. Some of them are obvious, others betray my particular personal taste. I’m a little bit too young to have known any of these albums from the time of their release. I think I’ve owned Jethro Tull’s Aqualung the longest. I bought it when I was 12, after my older brother played it for me. I also bought Sticky Fingers early enough to own it with the cover that has an actual zipper. And my mother had Cat Stevens’ Teaser & The Firecat album, so I was sort of familiar with it in my childhood (though I didn’t really play LPs until I was 10 or 11).

Other albums crept into my life in the intervening years: some came into my life inspired by some song or other; some because I felt I had to investigate whether they satisfied their big reputation; some I have no idea how I came to them; I just did. Some I fell in love with instantly (John Prine’s eponymous debut, for instance), others were a struggle to fall for initially and required a bit of work (such as What’s Going On or Blue).

I won’t list my Top 20 in order, and the playlist runs in a random sequence, as far as rankings are concerned. If forced to choose a Top 3, I might go with Tapestry, John Prine and Pieces Of A Man. But one contender I deliberately omitted: Kris Kristofferson’s Me And Bobby McGee, which was released in 1971, but in fact was just a retitled release of KK’s sublime self-titled 1970 debut.

So, what are your albums of 1971?

1. The Rolling Stones – Sway (Sticky Fingers)
2. John Lennon – Gimme Some Truth (Imagine)
3. Jethro Tull – Mother Goose (Aqualung)
4. James Taylor – Hey Mister, That’s Me Up On The Jukebox (Mud Slide Slim & The Blue Horizon)
5. Carole King – Home Again (Tapestry)
6. Gil Scott-Heron – When You Are Who You Are (Pieces Of A Man)
7. Isaac Hayes – Never Can Say Goodbye (Black Moses)
8. Bill Withers – Moanin’ And Groanin’ (Just As I Am)
9. Kris Kristofferson – Loving Her Was Easier (The Silver Tongued Devil And I)
10. Judee Sill – The Lamb Ran Away With The Crown (Judee Sill)
11. Joni Mitchell – All I Want (Blue)
12. John Prine – Pretty Good (John Prine)
13. Cat Stevens – Tuesday’s Dead (Teaser & The Firecat)
14. Van Morrison – Tupelo Honey (Tupelo Honey)
15. Roberta Flack – Let Them Talk (Quiet Fire)
16. Marvin Gaye – Mercy Mercy Me (What’s Going On)
17. Curtis Mayfield – Keep On Keeping On (Roots)
18. King Curtis – A Whiter Shade of Pale (Live At Fillmore West)
19. Barbra Streisand – Space Captain (Barbra Joan Streisand)
20. Elton John – Razor Face (Madman Across The Water)

As ever, CR-R length, home-grooved covers, text in illustrated PDF. PW in comments.

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In Memoriam – August 2021

September 2nd, 2021 7 comments

The Reaper is back in his ghastly groove, wreaking carnage of a like not seen for many months. He claimed the most likable Rolling Stone — which may not exactly be the toughest contest in the world, but Charlie Watts seems to have been a decent man. The Reaper also took one of the great harmony singers, the last of Bill Haley’s Comets, and the drummer on hits such as Dolly Parton’s Jolene and Dobie Gray’s Drift Away. There are so many write-ups — and I had to restrain myself from not adding more — I suggest you read the lot in the included illustrated PDF.

The Stones Drummer
Practically everything that needs to be said about Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts, a jazz drummer in a rock band, has been said — importantly the story about how he responded to Mick Jagger’s reference to him as “my drummer” with a punch in Mick’s face and the response: “You’re my singer!” But I’d like to yield the floor to music journalist and Stones fan Neil Kulkarni, who on Facebook issued this spontaneous and unedited tribute Watts’ often underrated drumming:

“It’s that those beats he made, Satisfaction, Get Off My Cloud, the stealth and menace of Play With Fire, the lunatic clatter and thump of 19th Nervous Breakdown and Mother Baby, We Love You, Jumping Jack Flash, Stray Cat Blues, Jigsaw Puzzle […] He would never admit it, but [he was] such an important teacher-by-proxy to so many musicians in so many different genres. His solidity, steadiness is gonna be mentioned a lot, but don’t forget his rippling rolls on Moonlight Mile, all the moves he makes on something like Monkey Man or Knocking, and how convincing he makes every little shift. Funky, experimental, always giving the songs life. Unique grooves that could only come from him…”

The Everly Brother
As it was with the Louvin Brothers — the country-gospel siblings who set a template for the fraternal harmonies which the Everly Brothers would take to the top of the charts — Phil and Don Everly often didn’t get on with one another. Like Ira and Charlie Louvin, Phil and Don had different temperaments and even worldviews, yin and yang. Their fights were legendary; and after Phil’s death in 2014, Don explained that now he felt free to endorse a Democrat candidate for the presidency, something he felt he couldn’t do while his brother was alive.

Don and Phil brought the tradition of country/country-gospel harmonising into the mainstream of pop music, whence it inspired acts like The Byrds, The Hollies, The Beatles, Crosby Stills & Nash and, above all, Simon & Garfunkel. The Everly Brothers reside in the pantheon of rock & roll but they always returned to their country roots, even at the height of their success, with the 1958 LP Songs Our Daddy Taught Us. Ten years later, they released the intriguing Roots album, a country record that in places incorporated contemporary pop sounds. The featured track, T For Texas, is a bit of a mess, but hear how Don and Phil start it off as a country sing and end up sounding like The Monkees.

In 1962, Don joined up with songwriter Carole King and budding musician Glen Campbell to form The Keestone Family Singers. I’m including a song from that collaboration, but I do so not as an acknowledgment of the musical merits which the collaboration might promise.

The Reggae Pioneer
In reggae, Lee “Scratch” Perry stands as a giant; as a founder of the Upsetter Records label and his band The Upsetters, as a songwriter, and as a producer, especially of Bob Markey & The Wailers on their way to superstardom. He also worked outside his genre to record acts like the Beastie Boys and the Clash. In the 1970s, he helped pioneer dub music, through remixes of existing songs, which has influenced other genres, from rock to hip hop.  In 2004, Rolling Stone ranked Perry at #100 on its list of the “100 Greatest Artists of All Time”.

The Americana Pioneer
When I shall review the music deaths of 2021, I’ll probably find that the passing of Nanci Griffith will be among those that hurt the most. In the 1980s, Griffith helped pioneer the resurgence of woman folk-rock-country singer-songwriters. By fusing various genres, Griffith was also among those who gave rise to the so-called Americana scene.

Griffith commanded much love and respect from those who knew her music, but she never became a household name. Others had hits with the songs she first recorded and/or wrote: Bette Midler with her horribly cheesy version of From A Distance (which Griffith didn’t write but first recorded; her original featured on The Originals 1990s-2000s); Kathy Mattea with Love At The Five And Dime. In 1994 she received the Grammy for Best Contemporary Folk Album for Other Voices, Other Rooms, which featured her version of John Prine’s gorgeous Speed Of The Sound Of Loneliness (it featured on the John Prine Songbook mix)

The Rock & Roll Sax Legend
With the death at 87 of Joey Ambrose, the classic lineup of Bill Haley’s Comets has now passed. Ambrose played the tenor sax on great hits like Rock Around the Clock and Shake, Rattle and Roll. But in 1955 Ambrose left Haley with drummer Dick Richards (died 2019) and Marshall Lytle (died 2013) over a salary dispute to form the less successful Jodimars. After two minor hits, the group folded in 1958. After that, Ambrose worked for 27 years at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas before teaming up with his former Comets in 1987, with whom he’d perform for the next two decades.

The Country Wit
Country music has a history of superbly witty lyrics, and Tom T. Hall was one of the drivers of the humour train, most famously with his composition Harper Valley PTA, a huge hit for Donna Fargo (but it’s not her version that features here, nor the original by Jeannie C. Riley, which was included on The Originals – Country Edition). But Hall could also write poignant songs of heartbreak, and the occasional reactionary anthem (such as his risible Hello Vietnam). He was known as The Storyteller, and he indeed was that, in the best traditions of his genre.

The Poco Guitarist
After Jim Messina left Poco, guitarist and singer Paul Cotton came in, and made his mark with his guitar work, vocals and compositions, which included classics like Heart Of The Night, Barbados, Indian Summer, Ride The Country, and Bad Weather. He stayed with the band until 2020, with a four-year hiatus between 1987-91. Cotton released five solo albums. His fellow Poco frontman and solo collaborator Rusty Young died in April.

The Producing Engineer
On the very day that producer/engineer Allan Blazek died, I had listened to the 1973 album Freewheelin’ by The Fabulous Rhinestones, which he engineered. As a sound engineer, Allan Blazek was responsible for getting the balance of the duelling guitar solos in Hotel California right. By then, Blazek knew the Eagles well enough, having already mixed much of their 1974 On The Border album. He went on to engineer many of the bands big hits (usually together with his frequent collaborator, producer Bill Szymczyk): Lyin’ Eyes, Take It To The Limit, One Of These Nights, Life In The Fast Lane, New Kid In Town, etc. Later he produced several Glenn Frey records, including Smuggler’s Blues.

Among other acts he produced were Elvin Bishop (including Fooled Around And Fell In Love), REO Speedwagon, Mickey Thomas, The Outlaws, and the J. Geils Band. Blazek engineered those acts as well as the likes of the The Dillaeds, Rick Derringer, Edgar Winter Group, Dan Fogelberg, Wishbone Ash, Karla Bonoff, The Who, and Melissa Etheridge.

The Sidemen
Two sidemen in multiracial English 1980s groups died at 62 on successive days. One was UB40’s saxophonist Brian Travers, the following day it was Simply Red keyboardist Fritz McIntyre.

In UB40, Brian Travers sounded the opening clarion call in Food For Thought, which was the band’s first hit in 1980, alongside King on the nominal A-side. Travers remained with UB40 (or faction thereof) even after the hits dried up. As a redhead, Travers stood out in the group.

Fritz McIntyre backed a redhead. His keyboards kicked off Simply Red’s first hit, Money’s Too Tight To Mention, and the first track of their debut LP, Come To My Aid (which he co-wrote). His keyboards were a key ingredient in the Simply Red arrangements. He remained with Simply Red until 1995, along the way taking shared vocals with Mick Hucknall on Wonderland from 1991’s Stars album. After leaving Simply Red, McIntyre released a solo album and then emigrated to North America to do Christian contemporary music.

The Gadda-Da-Vida Drummer
It’s one of the great drum solos in classic rock: Ron Bushy’s stickwork six minutes into Iron Butterfly’s In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida, less musclebound fireworks than controlled aggression in a tribal rhythm. Bushy was the one constant in the changing Iron Butterfly line-ups. Of the In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida line-up, only one member survives, organist and lead vocalist Doug Ingle.

The Session Drummer
One of the tracks featured in memoriam of Nanci Griffith also showcased a session drummer who died in August. Kenny Malone, who played drums and percussions for Griffith in the 1980s, including the featured track from 1986. He also drummed on most of John Prine’s Sweet Revenge album (and other tracks throughout Prine’s career), as well as for acts like — and this is an abbreviated list — Dolly Parton (including on Jolene), Dobie Gray (including in Drift Away), Johnny Cash, Screaming Jay Hawkins, Billy Jo Shaver, Donna Fargo, Tony Joe White, Moe Bandy, Tompall Glazer, Carl Perkins, Ray Charles, George Jones, Merle Haggard, Crystal Gayle, Charley Pride, Dr. Hook, Barbara Mandrell, Johnny Paycheck, Reba McIntyre, Kenny Rogers, B.J. Thomas, Mac Davis, Bobby Bare, Emmylou Harris, Ricky Skaggs, J. J. Cale, Townes Van Zandt, Kathy Mattea, Garth Brooks, Guy Clark, Alison Krauss, Steve Earle, Willie Nelon, Allison Moorer, and many others.

The Queen
The first of the Mahotella Queens has gone with the death at 76 of Nobesuthu Mbadu, who has joined growling frontman Mahlatini Nkabinde among the ancestors. The South African mbaqanga group Mahlatini and The Mahotella Queens became international stars after touring with Paul Simon on his “Graceland” tour and appearing at Wembley at the concert for Nelson Mandela in 1988. The following year, they worked with with Art Of Noise on the sublime hit Yebo! (which means simply “Yes”).

By then they were household names in South Africa. The Mahotella Queens first hit their stride in the 1960s, but in 1971 the original trio, including Mbadu, left the band. Twelve years later, the three reunited and begun to have the string of hits that would bring them to international attention. After Mahlathini’s death in 1999, the Mahotella Queens continued to perform and record; their last album, a gospel set, came out in 2007.

The Hit Writer
When Irish-born singer Clodagh Rogers represented the United Kingdom at the Eurovision Song Contest in 1971, she received death threats from those charmers in the IRA. That bizarre turn of events was the last thing on the mind of the song’s co-writer Les Vandyke, the hit-maker who has died at 90. Vandyke scored two UK #1 hits for Adam Faith (What Do You Want? and Poor Me in 1959 and 1960), and seven more Top 10 hits. He also topped the charts with Eden Kane’s 1962 hit Well I Ask You.

Altogether, he wrote 16 Top 10 hits. Not all of them were credited to Vandyke: often he used the names John Worsley or John Worth. The former was actually the name he received from is Greek-born father, who in 1929 came to London and changed his name to assimilate more speedily.

The Big Exec
Music execs don’t usually feature in the In Memoriam series, but former CBS bigwig Walter Yetnikoff merits a mention. For one thing, as president of CBS Records International from 1971 to 1975 and then president of CBS Records from 1975 to 1990, he helped guide the careers of some of my favourite acts like, including Bruce Springsteen, Billy Joel, and Earth, Wind & Fire.

But more than that, he seemed a decent sort. When Billy Joel had no control over his own compositions, Yetnikoff bought them and gave them to Joel as a birthday gift. And when MTV refused to play Michael Jackson’s Billie Jean, the exec called the nascent video channel out for its racism, and threatened to pull all CBS records from MTV’s playlist. MTV relented, and Billie Jean — and the Thriller album — became a phenomenon, in large part owing to the video. At the 1984 Grammy Awards, Jackson called Yetnikoff up to the stage to receive plaudits. Others might remember Yetnikoff with less warmth — after all, he was a hard-ass music industry executive.

The Organ Man
The death of keyboardist and singer Mike Finnigan brings to three the number of people who have died in August and featured on the soundtrack of Fast Times At Ridgemont High: Finnigan played on Graham Nash’s Love Is The Reason, Allan Blazek co-produced the Ravyns’ Raised On The Radio, and Poco’s Paul Cotton is on the group’s contribution I’ll Leave It Up To You.

In his time, Finnigan worked extensively with Crosby, Stills & Nash, as a band and the trio’s solo efforts, as well as with the likes of Jimi Hendrix, Big Brother And The Holding Co, Joe Cocker, Etta James, Dave Mason, Dan Fogelberg, Maria Muldaur,  Ringo Starr, Leonard Cohen, Tower of Power, Eric Burdon, Canned Heat, Rod Stewart, Eddie Money, Tracy Chapman, Bonnie Raitt and Taj Mahal, among others.

The Soccer Star
One entry I include by exercising my prerogative of authorship of the In Memoriam series: German footballer Gerd Müller was the greatest goalscorer of the last 80 years, perhaps ever. And he gets an entry here on strength of a single he released in 1969, a cash-in on his popularity titled “Dann macht es bum” (which means “Then it goes bang”). It’s a terrible oompah-music record, and Gerd’s singing suggested that he was much better off sticking to his day job of scoring an impossible tally of goals. But it made him a recording artist, so he features here.

As always, this post is reproduced in PDF format in the package, which also includes my personal playlist of the featured tracks. PW in comments.

 

Paul Cotton, 78, guitarist and singer of Poco, on Aug. 1
Poco – Ride The Country (1972, also as writer)
Poco – Indian Summer (1977, also as writer)
Poco – Heart Of The Night (1978, also as writer)

Allan Blazek, 71, producer, mixer and audio engineer, on Aug. 3
The Fabulous Rhinestones – Go With Change (1973, as engineer)
Eagles – Ol’ 55 (1974, as producer)
Ravyns – Raised On The Radio (1982, as producer and engineer)

Kelli Hand, 56, house musician and DJ, on Aug. 3

Jo Jo Bennett, 81, singer and percussionist of Canadian reggae band Sattalites, on Aug. 3
Sattalites – Too Late To Turn Back Now (1989)

Paul Johnson, 50, DJ and producer, on Aug. 4
Paul Johnson – Get Get Down (1999)

Razzy Bailey, 82, country musician, on Aug. 4
Razzy Bailey – She Left Love All Over Me (1981)

Anders Pettersson, 69, Swedish dansband musician, on Aug. 4

Les Vandyke, 90, English songwriter, on Aug. 6
Eden Kane – Well I Ask You (1961, as writer)
Clodagh Rodgers – Jack In The Box (1971, as co-writer)
Jimmy Helms – Gonna Make You An Offer You Can’t Refuse (1973, as producer & writer)

Gary Lee Yoder, 75, psychedelic rock musician, on Aug. 7

Dennis Thomas, 70, saxophonist of Kool & the Gang, on Aug. 7
Kool & the Gang – Hollywood Swingin’ (1969)
Kool & The Gang – Too Hot (1979)
Kool & The Gang – Bad Woman (1984)

Walter Yetnikoff, 87, CBS executive, on Aug. 8

Chucky Thompson, 53, hip hop & R&B producer, on Aug. 9
Raheem DeVaughn – Woman (2008, as producer)

Killer Kau, 23, South African rapper and producer, car crash on Aug. 9

Joey Ambrose, 87, saxophonist with Bill Haley & His Comets, on Aug. 10
Bill Haley & The Comets – Shake Rattle And Roll (1954)
Bill Haley & The Comets – Rudy’s Rock (1956)
The Jodimars – Dance The Bop (1956)

Roy Gaines, 83, blues singer, guitarist and songwriter, on Aug. 11
Big Mama Thornton – You Don’t Move Me No More (1950s)
Roy Gaines & The Crusaders – A Hell Of A Night (1981, also as writer)

Mike Finnigan, 76, keyboardist and vocalist,, on Aug. 11
Jimi Hendrix Experience – Still Raining, Still Dreaming (1968, on organ)
Mike Finnigan – Misery Loves Company (1976)
Crosby, Stills & Nash – Southern Cross (1982, on keyboards and backing vocals)

Caroline Peyton, 69, singer-songwriter, on Aug. 11
Caroline Peyton – Call Of The Wild (1977)

Ronnell Bright, 91, jazz pianist, on Aug. 12
Ronnell Bright – Things Ain’t What They Used To Be (1958)

Pil Trafa, 62, singer of Argentine punk band Los Violadores, on Aug. 13

Nanci Griffith, 68, folk-rock singer-songwriter, on Aug. 13
Nanci Griffith – Love At The Five And Dime (1986)
Nanci Griffith & The Blue Moon Orchestra – These Days In An Open Book (1999)
Nanci Griffith – Brave Companion Of The Road (2006)
Nanci Griffith – Just Another Morning Here (2012)

Louie Knuxx, 42, New Zealand hip hop musician, on Aug. 13

Baba Zumbi, 49, rapper, producer, founder of hip hop project Zion I, on Aug. 13
Zion I – Bird’s Eye View (2005)

Jerry Fujio, 81, Japanese singer and actor, on Aug. 14

Charli Britton, 68, Welsh drummer, on Aug. 14

Gerd Müller, 75, German football legend, on Aug. 15
Gerd Müller – Dann macht es bum (1969)

Gary ‘Chicken’ Hirsh, 81, drummer of Country Joe and the Fish, on Aug. 17
Country Joe and The Fish – Superbird (1967)

Tom T. Hall, 85, country singer-songwriter, on Aug. 20
Tom T. Hall – I Washed My Face In The Morning Dew (1967)
Clarence Carter – Harper Valley PTA (1969, as writer)
Tom T. Hall – I Love (1973)
Tom T. Hall – May The Force Be With You Always (1977)

Larry Harlow, 82, salsa musician and composer, on Aug. 20
Larry Harlow – No Hay Amigo (1974)

Ian Carey, 45, house DJ, on Aug. 20
The Ian Carey Project – Get Shaky (2008)

Peter Ind, 93, British jazz double bassist and producer, on Aug. 20
Peter Ind – Blues At The Den (1958)

Don Everly, 84, half of The Everly Brothers and songwriter, on Aug. 21
The Everly Brothers – Cathy’s Clown (1961)
The Keestone Family Singers – Melodrama (1962, as member)
The Everly Brothers – T For Texas (1968)
Emmylou Harris & Don Everly – Everytime You Leave (1979)

Bill Emerson, 83, bluegrass banjo player, on Aug. 21
Emerson & Waldron – Who Will Sing For Me (1979)

Bob Fish, 72, falsetto singer with English rock & roll revival band Darts, on Aug. 22
Darts – Let’s Hang On (1980, on lead vocals)

Eric Wagner, 62, singer of doom metal band Trouble, on Aug. 22

Brian Travers, 62, saxophonist of UB40, on Aug. 22
UB40 – Food For Thought (1980)
UB40 – Tyler (live) (1983)

Olli Wisdom, 63, trance musician, ex-singer of UK goth band Specimen, on Aug. 23
Specimen – Beauty Of Poison (1983)

Powell St. John, 80, singer-songwriter, on Aug. 22
Big Brother & The Holding Company – Bye, Bye Baby (1970)

Sheila Bromberg, 92, orchestral harpist, announced Aug. 23
The Beatles – She’s Leaving Home (1967, on harp)

Fritz McIntyre, 62, keyboardist of Simply Red, on Aug. 24
Simply Red – Come To My Aid (1985, also as co-writer)
Simply Red – Wonderland (1990, also on co-vocals)

Patrick Verbeke, 72, French blues musician, on Aug. 24

Charlie Watts, 80, drummer of The Rolling Stones, on Aug. 24
The Rolling Stones – 19th Nervous Breakdown (1966)
Marianne Faithfull – Something Better (1969, on drums)
The Rolling Stones – Beast Of Burden (1978)
Charlie Watts Quintet – Practising, Practising, Just Great (1991)

Radek Pobořil, 75, member of Czech folk-rock band Čechomor, on Aug. 24

Dave Harper, drummer with English indie band Frankie & The Heartstrings, on Aug. 25
Frankie & The Heartstrings – Hunger (2011)

Mario Gareña, 88, Colombian cumbia singer and composer, on Aug. 25
Mario Gareña – Raza (1978)

George Horn, mastering engineer, producer, announced on Aug. 26
Paul Simon – Mother And Child Reunion (1971, as mastering engineer)

Kenny Malone, 83, country/folk/blues session drummer, on Aug. 26
John Prine – Mexican Home (1973, on drums)
Townes Van Zandt – Snowin’ On Raton (1987, on drums)
Alison Krauss – It’s Goodbye And So Long To You (2017, on drums)

Marcus Birks, 40, ex-singer with English vocal group Cappella, on Aug. 27

Sam Salter, 46, soul singer, on Aug. 27
Sam Salter – It’s On Tonight (1997)

Francesc Burrull, 86, Spanish jazz musician and composer, on Aug. 28

Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry, 85, Jamaican reggae musician, songwriter, producer, on Aug. 29
Lee ‘King’ Perry – People Funny Boy (1968)
Bob Marley & The Wailers – Soul Rebel (1970, as producer)
Junior Murvin – Police And Thieves (1976, as producer and co-writer)
Lee Scratch Perry – Perry’s Ballad (2006)

Ron Bushy, 79, drummer of Iron Butterfly, on Aug. 29
Iron Butterfly – In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida (1968, full album version)
Juicy Groove – Concert Fever (1974) (1978, on drums)

John Drake, 74, singer of garage rock band The Amboy Dukes, on Aug. 29
The Amboy Dukes – Journey To The Center Of The Mind (1968)

Lee Williams, 75, gospel singer, on Aug. 30
Lee Williams & The Spiritual QC’s – Come See About Me (2007)

Tommy Truesdale, 83, Scottish musician and radio presenter, on Aug. 31

Nobesuthu Mbadu, 76, singer with South African mbaqanga group Mahotella Queens, on Aug. 31
Mahotella Queens – Baphinde Joe (1970)
Mahlathini and The Mahotella Queens – Thokozile (1987)
Art of Noise feat. Mahlathini and The Mahotella Queens – Yebo! (1989)

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